This appeared in the print edition of Pacific Business News on Friday, April 14.
Ryan Masa serves as head of school for Assets School, the only school in Hawaii that specializes in educating children who are gifted, as well as those with dyslexia or language-based learning differences. Assets' lower school educates students from kindergarten through eighth grade, and its high school includes those in grades nine through 12.
"My background is diverse but has almost always carried a through line of supporting children who learn differently," Masa told Pacific Business News.
Prior to his role as head of school, Masa served as the Assets lower school principal for five years, and he has also worked for the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, for which he now serves on the board of directors. In 2014, Masa also collaborated with a group of community leaders to help open the Malama Honua Charter School, a Waimanalo school that offers an education rooted in Indigenous cultural values, he said.
What’s new for Assets School? Any upcoming events?
There are a lot of new, exciting happenings at Assets. In June, we opened the Transforming Lives Center on campus, which is an assessment center that is open to any student in our state. The Center is a place where students can receive comprehensive learning assessments. Families and educators can start better understanding how the child learns and what type of support they may need. If a child is struggling in school, or underperforming to their potential, an assessment helps figure out where attention should be focused. Without this type of insight, well-meaning adults are driving blind when it comes to support and interventions.
We are excited for our robotics teams, which had wildly successful seasons this year. In fact, one of our high school teams won the State Championship of FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics and is headed to the FIRST World Championships in a week.
We also have our Illumination annual fundraiser this week. This event raises money for financial assistance for our families. This is critically important because Assets is the only school in the state that specializes in serving students who are gifted and/or with learning differences, so we know that for many families, our school is not a luxury, it is a necessity. The in-person event is this weekend but the virtual auction is open now! We serve the community and therefore invite the community to take part in our virtual auction at AssetsSchool.givesmart.com.
What is the greatest challenge you have faced recently?
Keeping Assets affordable to families is a great challenge and one we devote a lot of time and care to. Assets has been a leading school in the country for 67 years so we know what type of education our students deserve. This causes Assets to be expensive because the program is highly specialized and personalized. We keep our teacher-to-student ratio low and meet students where they are with respect to their interests, strengths, and any skills that may be lagging. Through a lot of hard work and the generosity of individual donors and community/family foundations, we are able to provide almost 40% of our families with financial assistance. Every parent and child deserves a school where they are understood, accepted, and affirmed. We need to make sure cost is never the barrier to this peace of mind and potential for the future.
What are your goals for the rest of this year?
In the shortest of terms, I want to make sure Illumination is a rousing success this week! After that, we get to enjoy all of the end-of-year celebrations like graduation and the school play. Into the summer, we are investing a lot of energy and resources into our teaching training and capacity-building efforts. Because we are a unique school, our teachers require specialized, and vast, instructional toolboxes. The school continues to be committed to playing a major leadership role in preparing our teachers, and others, to serve and support brilliant students who struggle in traditional educational settings.